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Cervical Screening Test

Having regular cervical screening tests every five years is the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer.

The cervical screening test is a simple test done every five years to look for human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common infection that can cause cervical cell changes and may develop into cervical cancer. By detecting a HPV infection early, it allows your healthcare provider to monitor the infection and intervene if required. Even if you have had the HPV vaccination, you should still have regular cervical screening

Commencing 1 July 2022, anyone who is due for cervical screening will have a choice in how to do the test. You can either:

  • collect your own cells from your vagina, in private, using a long-handled cotton swab (called self collection)
  • have a healthcare provider collect the sample. This means a doctor or nurse will use a speculum to obtain cells from the cervix.

It's YOUR CHOICE which method you prefer.

What does a self collection test look like?

The self collection test looks like a long handled cotton bud.

How do I take a self collection test?

Your healthcare provider will provide you with instructions on taking the sample. They will provide you with a swab which looks like a long handled cotton bud. It is easy and you just need to collect cells from any part of the vaginal wall. You do not need to be able to find your own cervix.

Where can I access a self collection test?

Both the healthcare provider collection method and the self collection test are accessed through your GP practice. The self collection test is usually done at the doctor’s surgery by you, in private behind a screen or in the bathroom, or can be taken home and returned to the surgery. As of July 1 2022, all general practices can offer self collection but it’s best to check if they have the correct swabs in stock first. For a list of practices offering self collection in your local area, please refer to the list on this page.

Is self collected as accurate as clinician collected?

Self collection is just as safe and accurate as a healthcare provided sample. A self collection test is taken from the vagina and not the cervix and means taking a sample with a swab and not a speculum. The self collection test is painless, accurate, and easy. Both tests look for the presence of HPV, which left untreated, can lead to cervical cancer. If HPV is found on the self collection sample, the patient will need to return to the doctor or nurse to have another sample collected to check for abnormal cell changes.

Your healthcare provider can talk to you about your results and what this means for you.

What is HPV?

HPV is the virus that causes most abnormal cervical cell changes and most cervical cancers. Many people will have HPV and never know, as there are usually no symptoms. HPV is spread from sexual contact.

There are many types of HPV and most are cleared by the body within one to two years.

If the body does not clear HPV, it can cause abnormal cervical cell changes. If left undetected and untreated, these changes can develop into cervical cancer. By detecting a HPV infection early, it allows your doctor or nurse to monitor the infection and intervene if required.

More than 70% of cervical cancers can be prevented by cervical screening.

What if I have had the HPV vaccination?

Even if you have had the HPV vaccination, you should still have regular cervical screening. The HPV vaccination provides protection from nine types of HPV, including the four strains most likely to cause severe disease. Whilst the vaccine provides excellent protection, it doesn’t protect against all forms of HPV, so cervical screening is still important for women and people with a cervix who have had the HPV vaccination.

Who should get the cervical screening test?

You should have a cervical screening test every 5 years if you:

  • are between 25 and 74 years of age
  • have ever been sexually active (this includes any type of sexual activity and not just intercourse)
  • are a woman or a person with a cervix.

It makes no difference if you:

  • are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight
  • have had the HPV vaccination or not
  • are no longer sexually active
  • have been through menopause
  • have been with only one sexual partner
  • have experienced traditional cutting or circumcision
  • have had a baby
  • are pregnant (ensure to let your health care professional know).

Please note: Self collection is not appropriate for some participants under the following circumstances:

  • if you are symptomatic (e.g. experiencing unusual vaginal bleeding, pain or discharge)
  • if you are undergoing ‘Test of Cure’ surveillance for abnormal results
  • if you have had a total hysterectomy with a history of high grade results
  • if you have been exposed to Diethylstilbesterol (DES) in utero.

If you are unsure about whether any of these apply to you, or if you are experiencing any symptoms such as unusual bleeding, pain, or discharge, please see your healthcare provider.

If you have had a full or partial hysterectomy, please check with your doctor about screening.

If you have symptoms such as unusual bleeding, discharge, or pain you should see your health care provider.

How do I know if I am due for the Cervical Screening Test?

Contact the National Cervical Screening Registry (NCSR) to find out when you are next due for cervical screening or to update your contact details. The NCSR manages a confidential database of cervical test results which they use to send letters reminding you to screen if you are overdue for a test.

The registry uses Medicare data to invite you to screen when you turn 25.

Where can I get a cervical test or self collection test?

Contact your general practitioner (GP) to book a cervical screening test. You can use the list below to find a self collection provider.

Find your nearest cervical screening self collection provider:

Metropolitan Adelaide

South

Dr Helen Murray

Southcare Medical Services (Sheidow Park)

5 Commercial Road, Sheidow Park, 5158

(08) 8322 2455

Dr Helen Murray

Southcare Medical Services (Christies Beach)

47 Beach Road, Christies Beach, 5165

(08) 8384 2900

Dr Kristin McLaughlin

Pear Tree Family Practice

16 Partridge Street, Glenelg, 5045

(08) 7228 5818

North

Para Hills Medical Clinic

1 Wilkinson Road, Para Hills, 5096

(08) 8258 1033

Dr Elaheh Bateni

Blair Athol Medical Clinic

502 Main North Road, Blair Athol, 5089

(08) 8349 9292

Dr Ramakrishna Kamath
Dr Houston Li
Dr Jen Lau

Northern Medical Centre

1/1568 Main South Road, Salisbury South 5106

(08) 8250 2266

North East

Dr Veena Geddada

Pro Health Care Hope Valley

1290 Grand Junction Road Hope Valley, 5090

(08) 8396 4000

Dr Katarzyna Stroyeic

Healthsense Medical Centre

T2/1495-1497 Golden Grove Road, Golden Grove 5125

(08) 8251 3885

East

Dr Katarzyna Stroyeic

Health on Kensington

252 Kensington Road, Leabrook 5068

(08) 8364 4511

West

Dr Mack MadaharTrinity Medical Centre28 College St, Port Adelaide 5015(08) 8249 2000

Regional South Australia

Burra Medical Clinic

46 Commercial Street, Burra, 5417

(08) 8892 2822

Dr C. Lucas

Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service

19A Oxford Terrace, Port Lincoln, 5606

(08) 8683 0162

Christine Lucas

Investigator Clinic

82 Liverpool Street, Port Lincoln, 5606

(08) 8683 0788

Dr Katarzyna Stroyeic

Victoria Road Medical Clinic

16 Victoria Road, Clare SA 5453

(08) 8842 1000

Two Wells Medical Clinic

32 Old Mallala Road, Two Wells SA, 5501

(08) 8520 2411

Dr Melanie ConsidineClare Medical41 Old North Road, Clare SA 5453(08) 8841 3777

You can also access cervical screening at:

If bulk billing is important to you, it is advisable to call the surgery to confirm your eligibility for bulk billing before you make an appointment. If you would prefer a female health professional, don’t forget to ask if that is possible.

If you would like to do your cervical screening test using self collection, you should also check that self collection is available at your usual clinic before booking.

Things to remember

  • In Australia in late 2017, the Pap smear was replaced with a more accurate five yearly Cervical Screening Test.
  • Regular cervical screening is the best way to prevent yourself against cervical cancer
  • More than 70% of cervical cancers can be prevented by cervical screening.
  • Most people who develop cervical cancer have never been screened or do not regularly screen.
  • All women and people with a cervix aged 25-74 who have ever had any sexual contact should have cervical screening every five years
  • You can have a healthcare provider collect your sample, or you can collect your own sample.
  • Cervical screening looks for HPV, which if left undetected, can cause cervical cancer. Most cases of HPV clear up on their own.
  • Even if you have had the HPV vaccine you still need to have regular cervical screening.

Information for healthcare providers

If you are a healthcare provider looking for information about providing self-collection to patients, or how to maximise participation of South Australians in the National Cervical Screening Program, please visit cervical screening for healthcare providers

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